Thursday, August 16, 2018

Premier League 2018-19: Who is best equipped to challenge Manchester City?

SoccerNews in English Premier League 8 Aug 2018

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Following Manchester City’s stunning title-winning campaign last season, the rest of the Premier League’s so-called “big six” will need to produce something special to dislodge the champions in 2018-19.

Pep Guardiola’s side won the division at a canter, ultimately finishing with 100 points, 19 ahead of closest rivals Manchester United.

After a 6-0 demolition of Watford on matchday five left City top of the table, they were never to be overtaken as they set new records for points, goals, wins, goal difference, consecutive wins and more.

It was the most impressive, dominant title success the Premier League has ever seen and laid down a sizeable challenge – one that United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal are all hoping to respond to this time around.

Ahead of the big kick-off, City’s squad is largely the same and has been boosted by Riyad Mahrez’s arrival, so which of the chasing pack is best equipped to challenge them?

 

Manchester United

Second place represented progress on the 2016-17 campaign, but United’s pre-season has been tumultuous, to say the least. Investment was clearly needed, but of their three signings so far, only Fred is likely to be a starter. On top of that, Jose Mourinho seems intent on alienating almost anyone in sight, having had a pop at Anthony Martial, his young players and the club’s board in the last two weeks. Positivity is in short supply at Old Trafford.

 

Tottenham

Spurs got their most important pieces of business sorted extremely early, as they tied Mauricio Pochettino down to a new five-year deal at the end of May, with Harry Kane following suit in early June as he got a new six-year contract. With Real Madrid sniffing around both, Spurs’ quick thinking looks to have been vital, as they head into their new stadium in good shape. However, a lack of transfer activity has frustrated supporters, particularly given few of their fringe players impressed last term.

 

Liverpool

Given the hype surrounding Liverpool’s exciting football and their journey to the Champions League final, it is easy to forget they only secured fourth on the last day of 2017-18. But, at the same time, they look comfortably best equipped to challenge City following their transfer exploits. A lack of midfield depth was a major issue at times last season, but that should be fixed by the arrivals of Naby Keita and Fabinho, while they will hope any uncertainty between the posts is solved by making Alisson the most expensive goalkeeper in history. And they still have Mohamed Salah, which is as good a reason as any to suggest they could challenge.

 

Chelsea

From champions to missing out on the top four, there is much to improve on for Chelsea this season. With Antonio Conte out and Maurizio Sarri in as his replacement, the Blues should at least be little more entertaining to watch and Jorginho’s decision to follow his former Napoli coach was something of a coup. Keeping Eden Hazard will surely be vital to Chelsea’s chances, but if they succeed in that respect, supporters have reason to be optimistic. At the very least, they will not have to put up with the tedious soap opera which revolved around Conte’s weekly digs at the board.

 

Arsenal

For the first time since 1996, Arsenal begin a Premier League season without Arsene Wenger at the helm. It is a fresh start for a club which occasionally appeared hindered by the Frenchman hanging on towards the end. The early murmurings about Unai Emery’s new era have been generally positive, while their transfer dealings look shrewd. Experience has been added in the form of Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, goalkeeper Bernd Leno is highly rated and young midfield pair Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi have significant potential. Their new coach’s fresh impetus might be just what the Gunners need, though a title challenge would be a surprise.

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